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Alex Chen

Great and complete streets in San Jose

What makes a “great” street? What makes a “complete” street? Greenbelt Alliance has been working to make the streets of San Jose great and complete.

Streets should be safe and accessible whether you are 8 years old or 80, a motorist or pedestrian. This belief guided our team of San Jose State University urban planning graduate students as they kicked off a block-by-block assessment of West San Carlos Street and South Bascom Avenue this past February. They noticed plenty of people on these streets who weren’t driving—people in wheelchairs, with walking sticks, on bicycles and skateboards. But these streets are not designed for them. They are designed to move cars, and fast.

The students compiled their comprehensive findings into a report. The Complete Streets Audit and Community Engagement report also chronicles Greenbelt Alliance’s community outreach efforts in Spring 2012, including a walking tour and community workshop for neighborhood leaders. If San Jose creates an urban village here as they are currently planning to do, there needs to be more emphasis on the safety of people who walk, bike, and ride transit on these streets.

To inspire people with the ideas that make a street great, Greenbelt Alliance invited UC Berkeley Professors Allan Jacobs and Elizabeth MacDonald to speak at the Bascom Community Center last month. These two street experts are responsible for the re-design of San Francisco’s Central Freeway into Octavia Boulevard, which helped revitalize the Hayes Valley neighborhood as a destination with great shops and restaurants.

As Allan Jacobs puts it, “If we can develop and design streets so that they are wonderful, fulfilling places to be—community building places that are attractive for all people—then we will have successfully designed about one-third of the city directly and will have had an immense impact on the rest.”

Trees, aesthetically-pleasing facades, windows that invite the eyes, ample space for leisurely walking—these are some of the qualities that define great streets from around the world. And they are some of the qualities that are missing from West San Carlos Street and South Bascom Avenue.

The City of San Jose’s first series of workshops on urban village planning are coming up. The Complete Streets Audit and Great Streets event showed that residents are already engaged and pumped up to begin working with the City to make some great, complete streets for their neighborhoods.


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